by Ed Beach
For the first time in program history, the Drury volleyball team will start the season nationally ranked. The Panthers are 18th in the AVCA/NCAA-II preseason coaches’ poll following their 28-7 season that saw them reach the national tournament for the first time ever in 2018.
Defending national champion Tampa is ranked first to start the season while California State-San Bernardino is ranked second and Western Washington is third.
Two other GLVC teams are in the top 25 as Lewis, last year’s Midwest Regional champion is ranked seventh, and Rockhurst is 14th.
Drury’s 2019 schedule has them matched up with four teams in the preseason top 25 and three squads others that are receiving votes. In addition to Lewis and Rockhurst, the Panthers will see 23rd ranked Central Washington on Sept. 6 in Topeka, Kansas and eighth-ranked Northern State on Sept. 13 at the O’Reilly Family Event Center. Three teams receiving votes for the top 25 that Drury will face include Colorado Mesa, Northwest Missouri State, and Illinois Springfield.
The Panthers finished the 2018 season ranked 17th in the final national poll and will return eight letter winners from last year’s squad.
Drury opens the 2019 campaign on Sept. 6-7 in the Washburn Invitational in Topeka, Kan.